Ford China has launched its new Territory mid-size sport utility vehicle.
The model revives a nameplate previously used on an Australian made large SUV spin-off of the local rear drive Falcon model line which went out of production in 2016 when Ford Australia closed its manufacturing operations to focus on R&D for other Ford units worldwide and sales of imported vehicles.
The latest Territory, developed with local light commercial vehicles joint venture partner Jiangling, is, according to a cnbc.com report, aimed at mid-sized SUV customers in small but fast growing cities across China, which Ford said was the country's fastest growing market.
"Our onslaught of new vehicles has begun," Peter Fleet, president, Asia Pacific and chairman & CEO, Ford China, told CNBC.
"We are taking the best of how we've brought Territory to market – deeply listening to customers in China and delivering what they want in style, comfort, safety and new in-vehicle infotainment options – and applying it across the business. Territory is just the beginning of more great things to come."
Ford claimed the vehicle was custom-designed for Chinese customers, noting that, between 2015 and 2017, sales of midsize SUVs in China increased 102%.
Ford told CNBC the vehicle comes with some high-tech features popular with Chinese consumers such as intuitive Mandarin voice recognition which understands dozens of regional accents.
The model launch came days after Ford posted September sales in China that declined 43 percent over the same month last year.
"Ford's performance is certainly nothing shy of ugly in China," Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for LMC automotive, told CNBC.
"While they are struggling as a group in China, the overall light vehicle market is now expected to post the first annual decline since we have been tracking vehicle demand in China (at least 20 years). Sluggish sales reflect weakening consumer confidence, amid the escalating US-China trade conflict, falling stock prices and the decelerating property market. With inventory rising, the Chinese Automobile Dealers Association is urging the government to take policy measures to boost demand, such as a tax cut."
Schuster expected 2018 auto sales in China to be down 0.6% to 28.4m units, he told CNBC.
"Ford will not fare well though not as bad as September," he added. "For 2018, we expect Ford sales to be down 33% to around 680,000."
Ford had said in August the Territory would go on sale in China early in 2019.